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18 Feb

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That’s No Group

3 Aug

Today was a Meet Up group for hikers, hikers with their dogs. This isn’t the first time for me. I’m a long-standing hiker. I’ve hiked for years, I love trails. I love being in the dirt. And I like mud. A lot of people go around mud, I don’t really avoid it. I’ve gone to a few group outings with them before, taking Gem, my six-year old Border Collie mix, but I’m not really all that sure you could call them a group.

I did go up to the top of Point Mountain, I did make, it’s just that the group was way ahead of me. Kids, nah, not really, they really weren’t. Just people, men and women in their 30s, some were in their 40s, one guy was older than me, he was about, I don’t know, I’m thinking sixty-two? He coughed a lot, I know that and it annoyed me. He had very thin ankles, not normal for a guy.

One girl, she was watching my tattoos, I knew it, I saw it, her name was Ellen. I don’t like that name too much. It’s like a very bland name. I have never gone out with an Ellen. It’s a very Jewey name. How about Naomi, huh? That’s a very Jewey name. Anyway, Ellen darts her eyes, diverted to my arms. She wants to ask about my tattoos, I could just hear it in her brain going, “This woman is old, what the fuck is she doing with these tattoos, and look at her with her cut-off shirt, showing her stomach, omygawd.”

I wanted to like tell her I could read her mind at that point. But it’s not a big deal. She was all right. I was better looking at her age. Forty-two? Forget it. She didn’t do nothing, nothing for me, but her brain was sizzling, dying to ask, “Are you seriously going to walk up this mountain?

Yes, you snobby little bitch, I am.

The guys in this group, all of them in this group, are like the losers from high school, the left-behinds, the rejects, the ones no girl in her right mind would go out with. And now they’re all here, with tight underwear and too tight-wearing pants so you can see, kinda’ if you look, glance, don’t make it obvious, but you could see the outline of their penis in their pants! It’s not good; it was never a cool look.

I disregard of all these and I head up the mountain. Look it had rained the night before, so the bugs were out, it was muddy, and the rocks were slick. I hate these conditions for hiking, they’re my least favorite conditions, but I go.

The other four girls practically ran passed me, the guys were ahead too. It was a straight shot up the mountain, almost at a 90 degree plane; it wasn’t easy, and the big drops and spaces between the rocks to traverse the trail was difficult since the rocks, like I mentioned, were slick. I was dressed well, with good boots, so I thought. But the boots sucked, and I was slipping everywhere. Thank God for my walking stick that helped.  I was last in this hike, and the only guy in front of me was the guy with the skinny ankles.

About an hour into the hike, I lost the group, every one of them had pushed themselves so far ahead of me, I couldn’t even hear them anymore, and for the last hour I was alone with Gem.

Knowing that I came with a group, and now no one was around, was a little unsettling. But see, I knew this park, I had been there several times, and so I wasn’t lost. I knew when I got down, I’d come to meadow, a big cornfield, and then from there, the river. At the lower part of the trail, the Musconetcong runs 46 miles and right where I’d meet it was where the trout fishermen fish. So I wasn’t lost and I felt fine with that. This group didn’t turn back to see how I was, and I thought that was really shitty.

When I reached the river, I reached the group and reunited with the group. I pat my dog. She was tired and wet. Her fur had picked up summer prickers and they had settled on her hind legs and withers. She looked at me as if to say, “I’ve had enough.” She doesn’t swim, and doesn’t really like the water except to get her pads wet. The other dog owners have your typical labs and beagles who like the water; they were there. There were the treat givers, giving treats, dogs begging. But not Gem. Gem doesn’t beg, although I knew she was hungry. She hadn’t eaten her breakfast. I needed to get her home.

I walked ahead, I knew where I was going, I pulled out some speed on the flat land part of the trail, and pushed ahead of the group. I heard them yelling for their dogs to come. Most of the time the dogs are on leads and don’t know when to come when called. I pushed on knowing the road would soon unveil itself. I had less than 200 feet to go.

I reached my car, letting Gem in the hatchback where her fleece bed awaited, and having cleaned her towels in advance of the walk, toweled her off good and dry, picking the prickers out from her fur where I could. I got in the car, too, adjusting the mirror, I made sure Gem was settled before taking off.

I heard the voices of the group in the parking lot of Point Mountain making plans for the lunch at Jake and Riley’s. I passed them, I didn’t wave goodbye or say thanks. And I didn’t goodbye to anyone, but instead headed back home, home with Gem, where we both could find a sense of belonging.

Copyright Terry Rachel, August 2014

 Point Mountain

But there’s…

15 Jul

There’s never been anything that’s ever been easy.

I just walk around, bike, try to talk to people, and try to make new friends. I bring my dog wherever I go, it’s just that this moving around isn’t easy. I miss certain things, I think I miss the friends I made – I know I miss the beach. I use to know the one pizza place I liked the most, but it’s certainly far away now. I tell people here, strangers that I do know a good pizzeria, but it’s not here in Reston, Virginia. Nope. No, it’s in New Jersey. Then I think about my home, the one in Raleigh. I wonder how long it will be before I move back there. Or will I ever? Really. Seriously. Why am I keeping this house? Will I ever move back to Raleigh, North Carolina? Oh, I don’t know. There’s so much…

I used to live in Colorado – don’t know a soul from there – a long time ago. I must’ve been 18 when I hitchhiked out there, lived there for a summer. I fell in love with a boy there, or I should say, he fell for me and I just went along. Never saw him when I returned to New York. In 2001, a visit to Vermont turned into a move to finish my last semester in college. I took away one friend from there who I still speak with – well, kind of – we ‘talk’ on Facebook. In 2007, Atlanta was a completely bad move – I moved there for a contract, thought it was going to be great. Boy, ha! What a joke that was. Get a load of this: in the course of six weeks I was robbed 3 times. Yeah, no kidding. But you know, I took away one friend from there who helped me out of a jam, and I still speak with her on occasion, not a lot, but that’s okay. Look at these towns: Brooklyn, Uniondale, Long Island, Albany, Schenectady, New Rochelle, New York, Stockton, New Jersey, and Trenton. Now I’m in Reston, Virginia. I’m going to tell you why I move so much, but first I want to tell you this:

I was watching this reality show about Long Islanders, how they can’t make it now, how they lost their jobs, how their homes are facing foreclosure. The show profiled these once all working people, how they use to pay their bills, how they use to have a lifestyle where they saw their goals for retirement and the foundation for getting there, and, unbelievably, all three couples were now lost financially on Long Island. Come to think of it, I think that was the name of the show. And Long Island’s not cheap, I mean you have to have money to live there – the taxes are crazy. People there have weird-ass accents.

I moved out of Long Island when I was twenty-nine. I knew the place was gonna’ get crazy. It was nice in the 1960s, 70s, even 80s, but then it got crowded, too crowded for me, so I moved 160 miles north of there and landed in Albany.

This friend of mine just passed away. She was 83. She lived in Albany in the same house since, I don’t know, I want to say at least 50 years. Fifty years! Fifty years in one house. Never had a foreclosure.

Now, personally, I would die. There is no way I could live in the same place that long. Granted, I don’t have kids, and, sure, children make you grounded because of school, friends and friends of theirs; you don’t want to upset the routine they’re in and so on. I get it. But I am a lesbian and I’m a single lesbian and because I am, I can move around and pretty much move, and that’s what I do.

And let me tell you why I love to move: there are so many places and people to see. There’s a completely different culture out here. Take the accents, take the Long Island accent – NO ONE speaks like that in any other part of New York. It’s strictly a Long Island Accent. Albany people don’t sound like Long Islanders and people from New Jersey sound nothing like New Yorkers. I could go on and on about the accents, but you’re getting the picture.

I love to move because, I have to work, and I’m older, and I don’t want to be without work while I’m still young enough to work, and not quite old enough to retire. I get bored easily. Yes, and this is a big one. Last winter I was sitting outside smoking a cigarette, it was right after the New Year, and all of a sudden, after glimpsing the white snow, cresting on a pine bough, I saw my stretched out dog through the pane glass, and said, “it’s time to go.” I guess those are the right words, well, they’re familiar, that’s for certain.

When I lost my last contract – and I did so damn well, I thought they would offer me a full-time gig but they didn’t. I was like, “Fuck it.” I’m moving again. It came as a surprise to everyone. I just got so sick of so much.  Being let go again. What the fuck? Talk about silent age discrimination. It sucks and it’s alive and well. But like I said, I get bored easily. But one thing I knew, one thing I had going for me was that, even through all my adventuring, I knew my word was good, that I was honorable. I knew that if the corporate sector didn’t appreciate my background, I’d pull out my ace in the sleeve – saving it for my older years, so to speak, and that was when I decided to apply for a Secret Clearance job with the government. The government liked that I never cheated on the government and didn’t have a rap sheet.

I’m there five months, right, and guess what I told my boss? I’m like sitting in his office, and he’s giving me my 3 month review (which I did very well; I got a 3% raise – hey it’s something), and I say to him, “You know, I’d be open for relocation.”

There are just no words, there’s only action for me. Because there’s so much more to do.

I think about those people from the reality show, those people on Long Island who are sinking – they don’t want to move. I think if they moved, opened up their mileage and scope for looking for a job – they could keep their house – rent it out, but move around in order to survive. In the olden days people moved all their shit in covered wagons, leaving the rocky roads of Maine, for example, forging into wild, unchartered land because they heard about the California Gold Rush. Americans have always been pioneering. I could go on about how the lazy counter of time can be a killer when you’re looking for work and not finding anything – I’ve been there, I know the trouble, but nothing’s ever been easy.

When the Wine Left

15 Jan

This morning I went through an old wine box made of wood.  One time, a long time ago, I received a trio of wines before I even knew how to drink wine, and received this trio as a Christmas gift. The wine was shared – and was good to drink, but I couldn’t part with the box. And so it remained.

For a long time I didn’t know how I would use it, this simple pine box, but it was of a good design, with a sliding door, but then slowly  I found myself storing birthday cards and letters from my grandmother and brother, and kept the concert stubs and the movie stubs, the cut-outs of favorite editors that sparked my interests; Haley’s Comet – I made it to Jones Beach on a cold November at 3 a.m to watch that one; the day JFK Jr died – I was on Block Island, the same body of water his plane went down in, his watery grave, the same ocean I swam in only the day before, covered the news. I kept that clipping.

Over the years the box grew larger and larger with news clippings, birthday cards,  love letters, more movie stubs, pictures were now tossed in of my friend’s children, my nieces and nephews graduation announcements, the death notices I’d collected. I could hardly pick up the box, it had grown that much.

Since the beginning of the year I have thought about going through it – the stuff I’d collected since 1979, way before my collective spirit and the events that shaped me and made me, out of pure survival, become so hard; me, then, a lamb, a cognitive and curious soul, an innocent – but I was prepared to face my past, and my past was in that box.

In that box were dead things from people who were dead and their wishes were long gone and I was wrong to keep their memories in a box. It was time they be set free. If I could get rid of their vanished thoughts, I’d be better now to face them rather than have their well wishes wind up in some Ephemera show at a sports arena in some strange and faraway place.

I didn’t read everything, and I went through it quite clinically, saying aloud, “You’re not in my life…you’re not in my life…” flip, throw out the card; “You’re dead….you’re re-involved…” flip, throw out the card. Some memories failed me and I found myself asking, ‘Who did I see that concert with?’ I couldn’t remember.

Then there were Brian’s letters, several of them. He was an old friend – best friend. We had been friends since we were 10. He died in 1996 of AIDS, I was by his side. He loved me.  I kept his cards, all his letters. I remember when he died I couldn’t travel from St. Vincent’s in New York, and so returned to his apartment for one last look, one last time. On his kitchen table, he’d written on a simple tablet, his own hand, and put down these thoughts, “Oh, Dear God, why? Why, why, why?” I took the letter from the tablet – it was very personal and I know I should not have, but I did. I stored the letter (it was much lengthier and charged with emotional turmoil than I can say here), but I folded the letter and threw it away. It was his talk with God and I had no business in keeping it.

Then there were the love letters. ..I kept some of those to help remind me how I once believed in love. I saved all my old driver’s licenses – it’s amazing how I’ve aged, and I find it curious that the ID’s really show the timeline. I came across a picture of my brother Victor and I – I was happy about that, and I will get that picture framed (I’d forgotten about it). The cards and letters from my old friend Elaine, were kept. I read those today, not all, but some, and I realize how much she once cared about me. But people change and you can’t hold them to the person they want to be now. In some letters she talked about her husband, “Big and Ugly” Gary, before we even knew he would die within 10 years.

Inside the box I’ve made room for the people who are in my life now, for the events, for the new news of my life, for whatever new challenges I face, whatever new concerts I may attend.  But in the bottom corner of the box, I had folded away an old calendar page (I remembered keeping it). It spoke about my love of nature, because I always loved nature far more than anything I could ever love and admire, was a poem by Joyce Kilmer and inside of this  was the hair clippings of my cat Angelo of 17 years. And because he loved outside as much as me, I gave him this poem:  “I think that I shall never see A poem as lovely as a tree. Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree”

Some things should never be thrown away.

copyright, Terry Rachel 2012

Some Things Should Never Been Thrown Away

Too Much To Hold

24 Dec

I once had  a family.

In this holiday spirit I lasso the lessons I learned about loyalty, love and kindness. In these values there is a generosity of heart, of spirit, the willingness of giving, that I take forward.

Someone taught me that if I were to give, I should never expect. I learned that lesson well.

There’s been times that I did expect, that my complaints resounded with the words “I wish.”  Now I rely on my absolute right-brain knowledge, but oftentimes my heart gets in the way.

I was brought up to believe that everyone would welcome me. How hard that brain muscle had to work to find out that wasn’t the case. But I press on.

As I grew, as I came into the world, my own woman (gee, I was forty-something),  I called upon the values I received as a young girl because these were the values my family members gave to me.

I held onto them like a dog on a bone.

In 2012 “it’s all about me.”  See, I bought a couple of good bars of soap; I didn’t eat the pizza pie alone; I bought a new pair of hiking boots and gave the old ones to charity; I told the lady next door, “Look, if you hurt my dog, I’m not going to say hello to you anymore – you gotta’ like my dog.”

I once had a family.

My family,  in the short time we had,  taught me the lessons of giving, of giving with your heart.  In conversation, time – time of listening – to welcome friends over, to cherish their time, I love the people in my life. I have developed my friendships  – but I’m nobody’s fool.

In 2012, I know exactly what to do:

because I have too much to hold, because I’ve learned the lessons of humility, because I thank God for giving me everything I have –  my cup runneth over, because I’m older and without the guidelines of mortality, but moreso the timeline of mortality –

I give you my love, but I can’t give so much time.

A Buick for the Bird

17 Oct


For twenty minutes raging fierce, banging off the roof and rumbling down through the drainpipes, it poured.  When the fog settled, like too tight a knot, it only added confusion to the mix.  Tess thought it an auspicious beginning in a week normally marked by celebration.  When the phone rang against the background of thunder, she nearly missed the call.  It was too soon for anyone to be sending holiday wishes since Thanksgiving was still a week away.

The call sent Tess falling into the dining room chair in disbelief.  It was the kind of call that leaves you blank and after ‘hello’ you don’t talk; you can’t talk because your heart is breaking.  When she hung up the phone, Tess packed a bag and drove south slapping two hundred and forty miles of wet pavement, trying to reach Laine, hoping to stitch back together the wounds of a family.


Shortly after New Year’s Day and six weeks after the funeral, in the warmth of Laine’s kitchen, Tess and Laine sat surrounded by wallpaper that held a repeating border of coffee pot, sugar bowl, creamer and tiny spoons.  They sipped white wine and nibbled at slices of cheddar cheese and crisp apples. The French bread didn’t go wasted as Laine gathered the crumbs into her hands for the yellow-headed cockatoo.  “Good,” Tess said, “maybe that’ll keep him quiet.”

The bird had been pecking at a tiny bell hanging in its cage since she arrived.

Laine (short for Elaine), Church Lawrence and Tess Dushane had been friends for more than thirty years and together they both suffered through the humiliations of girlhood adolescence, bad make-up, badly fitting bras, and summers of Truth or Dare.

Tonight, however the conversation between her and Laine would wind up, Tess knew, to Charlie’s passing in some way and she was trying to figure out how to broach the subject without causing Laine to fuss.  For weeks after Charlie’s death, heads turned in the direction of the Lawrence household and the phone rang non-stop with friends wanting to help Laine and her kids in any way they could.  Some helped with taking the boys to school (if Laine overslept), some neighbors brought casseroles and homemade bread, some helped with the laundry, others even helped to balance her checkbook.

Laine’s mom and dad lived in another state and, knowing she couldn’t plan to see them on a regular basis because they were older now and didn’t like to travel as much, and, Laine, having no plans for travel herself especially down to Tennessee – a state she normally hated to visit even on a good day, was afraid to admit that traveling anywhere right now would break a routine she’d suddenly found herself accustomed to.  She took solace in her secret that she’d been visiting the cemetery everyday to “see” Charlie and if she left Long Island now, this was not something she could not do in Tennessee.  Though her mother’s offer to have her and the kids stay “as long as you like”, in the extra bedrooms, in the spacious ranch her parents occupied, was generous, her parents’ thoughts were not about Charlie as much as they were about Laine.  They didn’t want to put their daughter in any situation that would cause her more pain.  And so, when Laine declined her mother’s offer, telling her that she had to stick around the house because she felt “connected” in some way, it wasn’t exactly a lie.

Normally, Laine could zip around the ordinary household chores and juggle appointments, but since Charlie’s passing, her energy was zapped for even the simple task of sewing a button on a shirt, and if you asked her how she was, she would say she had a, “general malaise” or, as Tess liked to call it, “a dark cloud.”  Either way, it seemed that Laine was carrying around something unnatural with her for the past eight weeks and people were concerned, concerned because it was shameful the way Charlie died at work and Laine had a hard time swallowing the circumstances that surrounded it.

Charlie was lying on the men’s bathroom floor when the relief man found him.   When the call came in from the doctor, and Laine knew it was bad news because Charlie was already ninety minutes late, Laine was told that Charlie had died and that complications from sleep apnea had triggered a massive heart attack.  And it wasn’t the doctor so much as it was the relief man who found Charlie that provided the words of comfort that Laine needed to hear.  He told her Charlie was a, “Distinguished man, the only man I’d ever seen that looked so good when he died.”

Newsday printed up a small blurb about a Man Found Dead in Bathroom story that, at the time, sounded all too fiction-like, considering that Charlie died at Mt. Sinai hospital where he worked for over nine years; it was just too ironic for Laine to bear.  Feeling doubly-wounded by such news, Laine, feeling so taken back by the events, kept ruminating through the most troubling part: if someone worked in a hospital, shouldn’t they have at least a shot, better than a fifty-fifty chance, at having someone-anyone-save their life?  “That should’ve been part of the ‘benes’!” as in benefits, she had told Tess, and no one would disagree.

“Laine?” Tess asked, cutting a piece of cheddar cheese that she’d found delicious when it was at the right temperature and this slice was.  “Tell me about this guy, will you?  Come on.  He was a wacko?  I’m just curious.”

“I didn’t say he was a wacko.”  She was referring of course to the relief man who found Charlie.

When Laine phoned Tess to tell her the bad news that night in November, Tess had been perplexed by the relief man’s words, particularly the way in which he described Charlie’s appearance and tonight, though she couldn’t figure out the reasons why she wanted to bring it up again, Tess just couldn’t bring her mind not to think about it, and felt compelled to revisit the events of the story.

“He used some word to describe Charlie.  Was it that ‘he looked discernible?’ Just wondering, you know.  I didn’t quite hear it right.”

She would have to be delicate about the matter because if Laine got the feeling the she was being pushed too far, she’d erupt; and she wouldn’t just stop there.  She’d blame everyone else for making her lose her temper and, under the circumstances, she’d be justified.  Tess would have to go easy.

“Now, Laine, come on,” she told her.  “Let’s talk about it, get it out in the open.  It’s not good to hold things in.  It eats you up.”

Laine eyed her knowing she could’ve latched onto Tess’s last remark to her advantage. Laine was about the only person, besides her immediate family, who knew Tess’s secret of being barren.  And she knew how it happened.  When Tess told her, they both cried in each other’s arms.  But she couldn’t bring that up now and why should she?  She chose instead to let her have the hand, thus assuring the confidence stay kept.  That was the funny thing about Tess, she could scramble someone’s brain when she wanted to find something out, but just try getting something out of her.  She wasn’t going to let Laine off the hook so fast and Laine knew she’d have to spill the beans.

Laine found it hard to keep a secret- not only from Tess, but everyone else, too; and it was this, where at weekly mass Laine would ask a higher power for forgiveness-and it wasn’t a mortal sin but just an ordinary one-for her inability to keep her mouth shut.  And she knew Tess knew that she couldn’t keep a secret.  (Unlike Tess whose secrets went deep as a well.)   She even told Tess about her visits to the cemetery to talk to Charlie each day at noon.  Tess didn’t think she was crazy for going and she told Laine it was perfectly understandable as it was part of Laine’s healing process.  But when Tess asked her why she went at noon, she told her that there was no particular reason why she went at noon except that –and she was proud she hadn’t told Tess this part, but the reason for her going at noon was because she was bringing sandwiches to the cemetery where, even in the cold, she would sit and have lunch by Charlie’s gravesite.

“The word was, ‘Distinguished.’ Why?” Laine said dryly.

“Just asking.  Okay, okay.  A bit poetic, but okay.”

“Why?  Because he said, ‘distinguished’? It’s fine.”  Laine knew she was pushing Tess for a rise but she didn’t care.

Looking to avert an argument, Tess smiled and said, “Well.  Yeah.  It’s a little weird.  It’s like saying, “This omelet is fascinating.

“It’s fine,” Laine said, again.

“Hey, if anyone could be distinguished, it was Charlie.”

“He was distinguished.  What I minded, and I don’t know if it’s true, is this cross thing.”

“What cross thing?  And please don’t give me the long version.”

Being a drama major in college, it was Laine’s way to draw out stories for effect.  And she knew the lives of so many people who you’d allow for this indulgence of hers if all but to know the lives of the most obscure neighbors, neighbors who you barely saw and wondered if they were dead or alive.  You would be happy to see them, putting to rest your original suspicion come spring, where a wave of hello would be all you would exchange until the following spring.   Any story that happened between the seasons that might have affected these very same neighbors, Laine was right there, good-naturedly of course, with the highlights.

“I told you.  Charlie’s cross was missing.  No one was able to find it and, let me tell you, he always wore that cross, Tess.  Always.  But, as it turns out, I think I saw it on the relief man the first night of Charlie’s wake.  It had a diamond right in the center.  It was gold.  It was beautiful.”

“Laine, this is the first I’m hearing of a missing cross!  Are you sure?”

“I’m not sure.  But the cross resembled Charlie’s cross a lot.”

“I remember the cross, a little ostentatious for my taste. But, regardless.  Well, then, you’ve got to speak to this idiot.  How many people have a cross like that, right?  I didn’t see it the night of the wake.  I took one look at the guy’s sport jacket and I was like, ugh, what a freak.  He was wearing an orange-plaid coat.  He looked like he was going to Saratoga, not a wake.  People don’t wear orange to a wake, Laine.   Don’t let this one slide.”

Tess had a bad habit of taking people at face value and first impressions were critical for her.   Laine had always secretly resented Tess’s silent superiority in matters of fashion and what she’d considered to be good taste.

Feeling confident she knew what good manners were, too, she said, “I’m going to have to let it slide.  It would have been terribly wrong if I were to bring up the possibility of thievery at my husband’s wake.  And the implication would be, what?  I’d be suggesting that the relief man stole the cross off Charlie’s neck when he was dead, lying on the men’s bathroom floor?  That would be pretty rotten.”

She was right.  She’d have to let it slide.  Laine didn’t have the energy for confronting an issue that she could neither prove nor disprove.  If the relief man did steal Charlie’s cross, why would he wear it to Charlie’s wake in plain sight for her to see?  No, she would have to let the issue go.

Part of her wanted to crawl up in a shell, another part of her cursed Charlie for leaving, and another part of her wished she could have died too, though this one she dismissed very fast because of her sons.  If having to raise her sons alone as a widow of forty-six wasn’t bad enough, she couldn’t bear the thought of them growing up without both parents.  And the kids had come at a cost.  Having the two kids late in life, because Laine and Charlie were nearly poor in their twenties and thirties, Charlie and her both knew that by the time the boys reached college age, Laine would be approaching her 60th birthday and Charlie his 63rd.  But now, of course, all that had changed.  Laine still might be sixty attending her son’s graduations, but she’d no doubt go unescorted.  At least, that’s what she thought her future held.  And it was at this moment, as she thought about her future that, in a brief scenario that ran through her mind, that a part of her wished she could have died, too.


Unable to bear children due to a freakish accident that left her unable to bear children, Tess was too ashamed to become reinvolved, too afraid of being rejected for her infertility, and rejected like she was by her husband when she found out she couldn’t have kids, she had endured six years of an empty marriage before it dissolved into an ugly divorce.

It was not your garden variety of accidents.  No.  Jumping chairs, playing with her teenage brother one day after getting out of the pool in the backyard, her brother chased her so fast that, as Tess rounded the kitchen table, jumping between the kitchen chairs (which her parents got rid of immediately following the accident), she slammed down on the laddered back chair, tangling her foot in the tie of one of the chair cushions.  It had all happened so quickly and suddenly she was on the floor bleeding from her vagina, she was conscious only for a moment, before she fainted from the shock.

Refusing ever to become reinvolved, she transformed her energy into volunteer work where, for nearly thirty-five weeks out of the year, she helped to find homes for cats and dogs that were maimed, forgotten, or left behind in some way.  She needed to feel needed and by helping to restore the life of a defenseless animal, Tess could bury her hurt.

Copyright 2011, Terry Rachel

Season 1 – The Introduction

1 Oct

 October 1, 2011

Good Morning, Dear Readers,


With this writing I begin with a series about three young girls –  Lisa, Claudia and Olivia – orphaned at an early age in Quebec, Canada,  they are chestnut-haired, hazel-eyed, French-Canadians, and all very pretty –  they would be soon adopted after the accident that killed their parents by a young couple who were barren, Yvette, and Richard Oakley, each established writers, living in an affluent suburb of Long Island, they would move the sisters to their home in Garden City where they would grow and play and live their lives as any normal pre-teen girl, but when each girl’s sexuality peaks, together they  question the path to take as they come to the crossroad of their lives.


I hope you will enjoy their journey.


My best,

Terry Rachel




The Oakley Girls of Garden City 



The Introduction


Lisa is the youngest of the sisters, at age 10, she plays with boys, preferring their company over girls. She is smart in school but takes advantage of not doing homework, a little bit of a know-it-all, she’s keenly aware how pretty she is.  Today, Saturday, she’s hogging the bathroom more than usual, not having to be rushed out by her sisters, she stares long in the mirror, examining her face. She pretends to put on mascara, as her mouth gently drops open, she purses her lips to throw a kiss, and thinks that her lips are too big. Taking out her barrette she shakes her head to loosen her hair, flipping the ends, she bends her head to her knees, sweeping her hair in a downward direction, she snaps up straight and shakes again her magnificence she is most proud of. She can do styles now. Her older sister, Olivia,  taught her how to use a curling iron – but she doesn’t always get to use it, because Olivia and Claudia use it the most, and she feels like she gets what’s left over. She knows she has to be very sweet with her sisters.

Claudia is the middle child, at twelve, she has green-hazel eyes, and sunburned features, freckles across her nose and some to her cheeks, she has long, thick lashes the color of caramel, her hair is naturally two-tones of chestnut and dark blonde. On the swim team from 6th through 9th grades, Claudia is slender and elegant, some would say she is the most beautiful of the Oakley sisters – but as the good Lord gives the human mind or, at least those willing to accept it, the gift of modesty, Claudia prefers to concentrate on doing good for others, volunteering takes up most of her time when she is not with her swim team.

In her marmalade-colored room, one sunny window shines its morning light, as Olivia sits writing an e-mail to a school chum she met in her sophomore year. School begins next week, right after Labor Day, and Olivia, thirteen, has been thinking about her girlfriend for weeks. Ever since Cathy left for a family vacation to spend the summer in Michigan, Olivia has texted her nearly every day. The light pours onto her flawless olive skin, her dark eyes read again what she is about to send to her friend. Her hair is never in her face, unusually confident for her age, her  ballet instructor expressed to Mrs. Oakley that Olivia has the potential to go far as a dancer.

Yvette Boulanger-Oakley was raised on Long Island, but spent summer vacations with her parents’ family in Quebec City, Canada, where she held a soft spot for her faraway cousins she rarely got to see. With her love of travel and her natural affinity for uncovering a secret, Yvette went onto Syracuse University – a difficult school to gain entry to for its quality journalism studies, and after graduating interned for Newsday where she would eventually write a daily column, taking over for Erma Bombeck, her editor saw how good she was at telling a story in less than 1000 words that pulled on the heartstring of her readers. Yvette has auburn hair, her glasses sit on the bridge of her nose, or on top of her head, she wears turtlenecks tucked inside a belted skirt, knowing not too many women can pull it off; she dresses always to show off her flat stomach.

When she was thirty-two and married to Richard six years, herself having been to several fertility clinic trails, and Richard, having gone through countless sperm tests, both of them unable to have children of their own – rather than getting completely down over it, and being the type of woman to see her way through any obstacle, she was an optimist at best, and so she and Richard considered the next best thing would be to adopt.  On an early morning on December 24th, at her office, Yvette was the first to pick up the AP wire that a family in Canada endured a terrible accident, where the driver of the car was killed along with his wife, but that the children, three young girls, were alive, having survived being hit by a semi-trailer while on their way to a Christmas event reported by the mother’s side of the family.

Richard Oakley is meeting today with his editor at Random House, he is on his third book for them and the advance of $10 million that he received took him well into his fourth year to complete the novel. It should be a good one; he thinks it’s got a market. The novel is based on a family of prosperous dairy farmers who lived in Hungary during World War II but were forced to leave from the Nazi advance, buying their way to America being guests of a family living in Minnesota.  In the cab ride from Grand Central up Park Avenue, he is dressed in a pair of linen slacks and denim shirt, his blonde hair sweeps down, in Robert Redford fashion, just above his blue eyes; he adjusts his sunglasses to take in the other yellow cabs lining the busy street. The manuscript sits on his lap as it is boxed; his editor prefers to read on paper. Richard didn’t mind printing it out, even though printing out over 150,000 words took a lot of paper, he poured his heart into this effort, not counting the rewrites, he hopes to receive the remaining $12 million by the time it goes to print. Under his breath, come the words, “Right in the bank for my girls,” and then to the driver, “This will be fine here, thanks!”

End Part 1

© Terry Rachel, 2011

Mourning Dove Road – A Butch-Femme Tale

24 Sep

Part II

The Motel

            It was by e-mail and phone that Katherine and I kept in touch during January and February. She’d phone each night or I’d call her. In one e-mail she sent me the pictures of her surgery and I sank when seeing them but wrote encouraging words, words that told her she’d be up in no time; that she was strong, that January was a long month, true; but February was a short one, and that spring would be here before she knew it. I missed her so much and I was missing my cat.

Five Mondays in January is no fun and I felt each one of them settle on my bones like a wet sock. By the third week, returning home one night from working late, I was unprepared for what I was to encounter. For fifteen years I was greeted at the door by a friend who, if he could talk, could reveal all my secrets, but he was a better friend than that, and that night, when I’d stepped through the door, I’d found my cat, Romeo, in a remote part of the house, whimpering in pain. Upon closer inspection, he had vacated his illness in nearly every room. As I held him, he cried in my arms, and I cried for two weeks after, imagining how sick he’d been throughout that day. I’d never see Romeo again, and I wouldn’t see Katherine for several weeks. The year had started badly.


            I kept sending her songs of the day, lyrics that reflected my love for her. I kept saying to ‘wear my ring’, that that was a sign of my love. She’d write to me in sleepy sentences, sometimes she would sleep for hours on end, with little awake time during the day because of her accident. We’d text message nearly every day.

I missed her body, her blonde hair, her blue eyes and the scent of Burberry that she wore. Her image burned in my heart, and the image of her falling was beginning to wane as February came to a close. It was good news:  her mother was returning to New Jersey because Katherine could now drive and was able to bear weight. We made plans in March to meet and she had signed her divorce papers. By the end of March, she would be ‘free’ she wrote saying and she could now love me, ‘totally and completely.” I couldn’t wait. I circled the weekend of March 3rd and 4th on the kitchen calendar three times for three things she always told me:  “you are my love, my life and my friend.”


            Katherine and I planned to meet at the EconoLodge outside of Matthews, NC, in Charlotte — not far from her home. She couldn’t drive long distances because she was only beginning to walk again; she had been using crutches or a cane, and was only walking for two weeks when I’d met her the weekend of March 3rd and 4th. We hadn’t seen each other in two months. I bought a new red shirt and it looked good. I wanted to look good for Katherine.

I drove into Charlotte leaving work early that Friday and though I’d never traveled to Charlotte toward Matthews, you wouldn’t know it by the way I navigated the road on that sunny afternoon. I was going to see my girl. I was finally getting to see her. I had missed her so much. I arrived first. She called to tell me she was going to be late -something had come up with Tom again, so I waited in the lobby of the EconoLodge talking with the manager, making small talk. I had waited about forty-five minutes; we were to meet at 5 p.m.

When Katherine pulled up she was wearing her Burberry sunglasses and she’d colored her hair from blonde to brown and she had lost weight. She got out of the car and she was wearing her brown boots, tight jeans, and a white blouse over a black Danskin that showed off her breasts. She had worn the gold hoop earrings and the silver ring with its blue mystic stone I had given her as a Christmas present. She was limping, but she was walking. I was so proud of her. It was so good to see her, to be in her company. I had missed her so much. She was wearing a brown suede jacket I’d never seen before.

“You look great. Nice Jacket,” I kissed her hello and hugged her hard.

“Hi! You are here before me! I’m sorry, baby. It’s so good to see you!”

We paid for two nights and when we got into the hotel room, we hugged and kissed but something wasn’t right. She broke the kiss and I looked at her,

“What? What’s the matter?”

“Look at the door,” she said.

As she rose, I watched her go to the door, trying to turn on a light that wouldn’t turn on. She wiped the door with her index finger and looked at me.

“Jo, it’s dirt! Dirt. Ugh, how disgusting. When was the last time they cleaned this             door?”

At that point I turned down the bed and looked at the sheets, there was a bad looking mattress underneath.

“Babe, no offense, but this doesn’t look too good.”

She said, “What should we do?”

“Let’s go. It’s not worth getting sick. We could get lice here, who knows. They’ll give us our money back.”

“Where should we go?”

“I don’t know. We’ll find somewhere else, don’t worry.”

Katherine was very upset. I went to the manager and asked for a full refund, but he wouldn’t budge. We were there less than 15 minutes and we were forced to pay one night.

Katherine started crying. I took her out of there and we drove ½ mile down the road and booked an adequate room at a Microtel Inn. She was still upset. Come to find she was menstruating heavily and it was obvious she wasn’t feeling well. Who knew if she’d fought with Tom before meeting me? She wasn’t telling me if she had.

We settled in. The motel room was much cleaner and cozier, and I could tell she felt comfortable when she began to unpack and put out her toiletries. I looked around, unpacked myself, and got into some comfortable clothing. It was getting near dinnertime but we held off and began to kiss.

I hadn’t kissed her in two months. She tasted so good to me. We explored each other’s mouths. I went to reach for her waist and her hips, she had lost weight, but she was still full and eager. Her breasts bounced toward me and she let out her bra onto my chest. I was so completely enthralled by her giving and her beauty and the love she held for me. I surrendered becoming completely naked without any props, allowing her to touch me without embarrassment. I had missed her so much and I needed her so badly. I couldn’t contain myself and I moaned, “Kath, I love you so much. I’ve missed you so bad. Baby…”  And we made love and we stroked each other in a way that spoke of sadness for being apart and a freedom for finally being together again. I teared up and she did too.

Sunday morning, before leaving, we made love again and she orgasmed so strong and quick she began to cry and then she began to weep uncontrollably. She said,

“Oh, Jo, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong, I’ve never cried like this            before. I guess everything’s coming out now, it’s been all bottled up inside.”

I held her and kissed her and said, “It’s okay, honey, don’t worry, it’s okay.”

We were friends and we were lovers. I let her know me. This was my end of the road. She would be my last hurrah. This was it. She was my girl. We spoke of marriage that weekend. I trusted her. I could finally be myself. I was home with my girl, my beautiful, Katherine. She had fallen and could now walk. Her divorce papers would be final at the end of March. We were in love, we would be together. There would never be another woman in my life. I told myself, “I’ll never be alone again.”

On Sunday morning we said goodbye at a Bob Evan’s restaurant. I would remember the breakfast Katherine ordered, a raspberry crepe with so much raspberry sauce it could have easily filled two plates, and lots of whipped cream.  She had given me a couple of forkfuls as I ate an egg and bacon sandwich on an English Muffin.

“That’s all you want?” she asked me.

“Yeah, that’s it. Let me taste some of your crepe.” She fed me a forkful.

“Woooh, that’s sweet, baby. Let me have another.”

She smiled, “Have as much as you like.”

“Yum it’s sweet, but it’s good, and hey! Look at that,” I said pulling out my shirt.  The shirt was bleached out as white as could be.

“Oh, aren’t you lucky,” she said. “A drop of that raspberry sauce on that shirt and you’d be screwed.”

Out in the parking lot the sun hit her face and she positioned her sunglasses to her eyes.  “Oh, that sun…hmmn…it feels good.”

“Yeah, it does.  Babe,” I said, “I love you.”

“Oh, Jo…baby, I’ll miss you. It was so good to see you.  I’ll call you tonight, or    just call me from the road.”

“You know I will. We’re meeting again in two weeks, right?”

She shook her head, “Yes! I may be able to drive to Raleigh then!”

I waited until she started her car and watched her drive away.


            On the ride home to Raleigh I didn’t call Katherine, I figured she was sleeping, but I’d made it home pretty quickly. I had slept good with Katherine at Microtel, I had relaxed. We watched some movies in the room, I’d felt comfortable. I couldn’t make love to her hard because her leg was still healing and so my lovemaking, my style, was sweeter and gentler. I knew she’d tire easily and I didn’t want to push her. We embraced in a soft and sweet balance I’d never shown her before, but I knew to go easy. I was so in love and I was so happy driving back because I knew that I would be seeing Katherine, she’d be visiting me, she’d be coming into my home on Mourning Dove and all the visions of her falling would fade away once she walked through my door. It would be like it never happened.

I put in a CD and played it loud, I was singing, I drove back home doing nearly 85 mph, just to call Katherine, to speak with her for our evening phone call.

Fly Away

There’s been a bird, a red-breasted robin, flying into two upstairs windows of my home. At first I didn’t know where the noise was coming from, when dressing I spotted him flying toward the window. I remember a Chinese proverb, something symbolic, or a Confucius saying, that a bird in a home is good luck. Still, several days later, the bird flies toward the glass on mornings when I dress. I’ve given thought that maybe the bird is crazed with bird flu disease, or maybe he’s just stubborn, wanting only to befriend his reflection.

For three weeks straight I drank and smoked, falling into the same exhausted, drunken slumber from the night before. I’d wake up weak and dizzy, drink some morning coffee, and go to work where I was barely recognizable to myself and to others.

Last night I looked up an old phone statement and retrieved a number I hadn’t called since New Years.


“Hi, it’s Jo Battle.  Sorry to call so late.”

Katherine’s mother had sounded the same from our first meeting at the airport.

“It’s fine. How are you, Jo?”

I was nervous calling her now, calling her at all – but I had to find out how Katherine was.

I began, “Elizabeth, I’m hanging in there, but please tell me:  how is Katherine?  Is she okay?”

“Yes,” Elizabeth said with a smile, I could hear her nonchalance through the phone,” she’s fine.”

“Are you sure?” I pressed.

“Yes, yes.  She’s fine.  She not working yet-“

“Well, I don’t care about that,” I interrupted.

“But she’s fine, Jo, really.”

“Elizabeth, I’ve called Katherine so many times, she’s not taking my calls. Where is she? She’s not speaking with me.  She’s not answering the phone. I am worried. That’s why I called you.  Where did she go?”

“She’s fine, she’s just doing her own thing.”

The phone call between Elizabeth and I lasted a little over three minutes.

At 3 a.m. I called Katherine. She didn’t answer. She hadn’t answered the phone in two weeks. I left a four-minute message on her cell. She didn’t call back. I called the house phone, left a message there. I’d lost count the number of times I tried to reach her.  It was now several weeks since March 3rd, well passed our last meeting, and Katherine wasn’t taking my calls. She had stopped texting. Katherine had moved on without a word. She had closed the door and closed it hard in my face in order to move forward with her life.

I dream of  Katherine, sometimes seeing her walk toward me. When this happens I masturbate and use her body, her face and her hands to hold me. Every night is the same. I wake at two or three in the morning, and call Katherine’s name. I pretend to reach for her, stroke her waistline, her hips, touch her hands, and smell her hair.


            Into the month of May I’m wearing shorts. I sweated today, breaking up the ground, trying to get rid of clover, wanting grass instead. I paint, repaint, scrub walls, get out the drill, build, break down – find projects that need attention, I do all these things to forget about Katherine.  Sometimes I can still hear my cat scratch on the doorway wanting to go out, he would have wanted out today; it’s beautiful.

The birds are singing and their songs sound like ‘cheater, cheater, cheater.’  I think of Katherine and hope that the reason she left me was because she needed space or something and not because she cheated on me. I think of her everyday. I miss her more than I’ve ever missed anyone.


            The summer came and I went to Atlanta for a writing contract. It was a hot summer. I rented out a room in a woman’s house – she lived in Decatur, and not too far from where I was working. It was a crime-filled area, and I endured three consecutive car break-ins, a house fire in a nearby house that roared so large it was too hot to sleep in my rented room that night (and I had to stay at a motel), a daily commute on the train while my car was in the shop, and the worst part was losing my house keys when they slipped off the back of a turbo toilet in a restaurant. Atlanta wasn’t looking too good for me. And for some reason my boss did not like my aggressive style. I didn’t like him. I guess my New York attitude was just a bit too much for this part of the genteel south, so I planned to return to Raleigh and chalk it up.

The Meeting

Before the sun leaves to its nighttime horizon it’s a little cool before it goes, but when the moon rises and the wind settles, the night takes on a quiet of its own. It’s here, between the twilight, where I go down.  So on the drive back to Raleigh, I passed Charlotte, turned around, took out a pen and piece of paper, bought a map, and found the hamlet of Matthews, NC.

The driveway was long, she was right about that; the house was huge. This was an affluent neighborhood. Bicycles were in the driveway. I saw the Black Rendevouz. I walked up to the front door, and the doorbell sounded hollow as it rang, one, two and three bells. A young girl answered the door,


“Hi, don’t you remember me? You came to my house only last year, we made smores.”

I was standing on the front porch, “Oh, right.”

“How are you?” I asked.


I began to feel awkward, it was still hot out even though it was nearing October, that’s just how the weather is in the south. And then I hear,

“Who is it?”

I gulped. Oh, this was a bad idea. Here I was unannounced, no warning. I hadn’t seen Katherine in months. What if she called the cops. What if she …

She came to the door.

“Jo, oh my God.”

I didn’t know where to look. I couldn’t look at her. “Please come in,” and she opened the door.

We walked back to the patio, it was just as well because I was warm and wanted some air – even if it was a thousand percent humidity – to smoke. “Do you still smoke?” I said to her. She was wearing shorts, sandals, a simple tank. Her scars were evident, you knew from the length of her scars, and scarred circles where the screws were, that her operation was extensive. She saw me staring.

“It’s pretty bad, huh?”

I didn’t say anything, but veered my eyes to face her. “Katherine, what happened? Where did you go?”

The children were near us, Patrick was precocious, listening, wanting his mother’s attention. “Go in the house, I’m talking! You’ve had me all day. I have a friend here. Go inside!”

We smiled at each other. I continued, not wanting to miss my chance, to hear what I’d been dying to know. “You just left me. You never called me. The last time I saw you was at Bob Evans restaurant. What happened?”

What she told me, she had to tell fast because it was going on 4:30, and she alluded to having company.

“Jo…I’ll just tell you: during the time I was sick, when I broke my leg, after I was operated, they gave me all these painkillers. I was taking so many. I was sleeping the days away. I became addicted.


“Yes. I was addicted – heavily. Oxycodone. Well, one day, night…I can’t recall. I got back on Curve Personals and …” She stopped, like a there was some large stop sign looming over her forehead.

“What…say it! I’ve been waiting all this time without knowing! Say it! Say it!” I was very upset, my heart raced. I held back my tears but I was filled inside with pain as wide as a river. I’m sitting there waiting for the words, and nothing is coming out of her mouth.

I said, “Did you meet someone or not? Is that why you took the chicken way out, just totally forgetting me? Not taking my phone calls? Ignoring me when you told me how much you loved me over and over? Say it!”

‘”Yes! I met someone!” and with that she threw out her left hand to show me the ring.

“Where’s my ring? You took my fucking ring off?” Why I said that, I don’t know. It was a moot point. There was silence. I looked at her, she could not face me.

“Look at me, Katherine. I have to know this: do you love her more than you loved me? Tell me. Tell me and I will go and I will never bother you. But goddamn it. Do you love her more than you SAID to have LOVED ME!”

She looked away, then down, then the tears came, then she started crying. I pulled out a paper towel from underneath a drink of soda and handed it to her.

“Here, blow.”

She took the towel and all she said was, “Jo….I’m sorry.”

After that, there was no reason to stay, there was nothing to talk about or take back. I stood, and quickly got in my car, navigating backwards down the long driveway, never losing sight of her face, watching her wave goodbye, I turned the corner, and made my way up Interstate 40.


At my Mourning Dove home, children in a nearby backyard are learning the alphabet, and you can hear their father recite,  “C. C is for cat,” he says. You say it, “A, B, C” and “C” stands for what?”  “C” stands for Courage” I say under my breath.

The children are playful. Sirens go off in the distance, somewhere, someone is hurting. Other children play with a basketball and yell, “That’s what you get!  Hurry up, man!” And the birds go, ‘woo, woo, woo.’ The twilight begins again.


© Terry Rachel 2011

Mourning Dove Road – A Butch/Femme Tale

18 Sep

Part I


Before leaving a flat fine line to the west, October’s sunlight burns down to fragmented dots and dashes infusing color to the liqueur bottles standing like soldiers behind the bar at Restaurant 518.  Familiar are the scents of bread and tomato sauce as I witness the cooks in the kitchen labor through the cacophony of pots and pans. One cook mans the larger stove replacing lids to the escaping steaming water. Steam charges his face with every lid he removes as he takes his apron to wipe the sweat pouring from his forehead. He catches my stare, nods, and manages a smile.

Launched from speakers set high off the corners of the ceiling come the breath of a soprano’s voice and the dramatic timber of a baritone.  As I stand beneath the glow of an amber light, I wonder if the other patrons knew that in opera some divas go mad, some leap to their death, some are stabbed, always in some tragic fashion, over immortal love?  Maria Callas, one of opera’s great sopranos, said, “When the curtain rises, the only thing that speaks is courage.”

Waiting for Katherine, I felt fearless.


 It was early Saturday night and Katherine and I settled into a booth near a brass railing. I rested my arm on the rail and lit a cigarette. She leaned in to smell the flowers   arranged in a glass vase for the table centerpiece, then moved the unlit candle to the side, then pressed both palms into the linen to lay flat any unwanted wrinkle, but there was none. “This is so nice, Jo,” she said.

I lit the candle and sat quietly admiring Katherine’s face; her blonde hair fell in curls to her shoulders. Her jewelry was simple but elegant and her nails were polished a translucent pink.  Under a white blouse her camisole revealed a lace border. “You look lovely,” I told her, “and your blouse is beautiful.”

At a height of 5’ 8” Katherine was long-legged with a fast walk that spoke of certainty and happiness. Voluptuously built, her breasts full and supple, one night I asked her why she wore a bra to bed. Smiling coyly, she revealed that she “didn’t want the ‘girls’ to sag.” Blessed with a good sense of humor she’d call herself “The Burberry girl.” She carried around a big Burberry bag and in it she carried everything. She wore Burberry sunglasses and a Burberry scarf and when she wore her hair up, she’d shake her big gold hoop earrings making sure they didn’t catch in her hair. She’d wear sandals or boots but never wear socks because her feet were always warm; she liked going barefoot. She never threw off airs and never thought about her looks. I told her she was a ‘lady’ for never having gossiped, never having an unkind word to say about anyone, her modesty didn’t allow comfort with even the slightest compliment.  She was a shy girl who could pout and cry in a moment’s notice and she would explain, as if it were any consolation, that she was “just feeling emotional,” and then, by that admission, she would cry again.

I loved her company, she was exciting and loved doing anything.  I loved watching her dance. Her dancing was a mix of American erotica and Middle Eastern belly dancing, a siren’s song, a dance I’d never seen before. When I’d tell her that her dancing made my heart race, she’d say,

“Oh, I probably look like a fool up there. My daughter’s friends must think I’m crazy. Come on, I’m forty-one. I don’t care. I just dance. But I’m glad you like it,” she’d say, and kiss me.

Katherine had no idea how beautiful she was – she never kept to the mirror, never felt beautiful, felt her looks only adequate, sometimes she felt pretty. But in her soul, in her heart – her deep-down beauty, the beauty I had seen in Katherine, the goodness that she couldn’t hide, that which radiated from within, that which she could not contain, had taken front and center as I watched her turn heads in Restaurant 518.


                        The month of October is sun-kissed and cooled just enough from the remains of summer’s heat and a weekend away in early fall has always been a welcomed favorite of mine. It was Columbus Day weekend and I had Monday off. I woke early to pack and gave Romeo, the cat, food, water, treats, and a clean litter box. I nuzzled him close and kissed him goodbye, “I love you.  I’ll be back Monday.”

Asheville from Raleigh is about two hundred fifty miles east. It was a blue and clear fresh morning and I had an early start. I was spending the weekend with Katherine!  Katherine had rented a cabin in Asheville every year booking for the same week – Columbus weekend –  a year in advance. Because she had expressed that the cabin was her retreat – a place where she could wind down and be alone (and I suppose, nurture her soul), I was reluctant to join her at first. But she encouraged me to go by sending links of the cabin, various museums, antique shops, restaurants – even directions, and with these assurances I decided to join her.

‘We only know each other a week’ I told myself on the drive out.

How I came to find Katherine at all, came only just a month before on Labor Day. It was a quiet holiday, and I began searching different dating sites and found one called Curve Personals. I limited my personal search to North Carolina and found Katherine’s profile. Her status read, “Seeking friends/pen pals.”  She described how she “loved the fury of the ocean in a storm,” that intrigued me, so I wrote her saying that I had grown up on Long Island, near Jones Beach, and walked the beach in many a storm. When she finally responded on her birthday from a hotel computer, her e-mail began, “I’m here with Chris and I’m here writing you, this is not good or is it?”

Everyone has issues.

I was going through menopause. I liked not having my period anymore, but I was going through night sweats and would often wake up soaking wet. I didn’t like my mood swings either. I was very touchy, edgy, and would become strangely melancholy. This behavior had affected me professionally and was costing me my livelihood. I didn’t want to tell Katherine – it was too early to say anything. I blamed it all on being butch and not being able to voice my sensitivities.

When I arrived at Willow Woods in Asheville my thoughts settled. The air was free of clouds with big skies, and I swallowed hard to clear my ears because of the mountainous elevation. When I arrived Katherine was in bed. I guess I arrived too early. She answered the door, smiled, took my hand, ushering me inside, and then ran back to bed because the cabin was so cold. I undressed and got into bed with her.

We had taken a picture together on the cabin couch near the fire, posing cheek to cheek. We were so clear-eyed and hopeful. The next day, Sunday, we took a walk, got lost, and walked two miles out of our way. We laughed it off. We’d found a good tree to carve our initials “JB & KP” inside a heart and wrote the date. She carved in the date but carved the wrong month:  11/06, when it was really 10/06.  “Oh, Jo – why didn’t you say something?” she whined. “I don’t know,” I said. “It’s okay.”.

She gave me the picture in a frame and took the complimentary cookie tin from the cabin and used it to hold autumn leaves from our walk and sent these to me with a card saying how she loved our weekend together. We made love in the hot tub outside, on the couch, on the king-sized bed, and on the floor in front of a roaring fire. In the middle of the night, with her hands touching mine, exchanging caresses and kisses, stroking every line, every curve, licking my fingers, sucking them into her mouth, our hands made love for a long while until I nearly orgasmed from her touch. It was hard leaving her that weekend, but there was never enough time between us.

The Affair

            Katherine and I began our love affair in the fall of 2006, and when I’d suddenly and completely became so involved, I realized I had wasted my time with everyone. Nobody was like Katherine. She was sexy, sassy, a whore in bed. She loved that I talked dirty and I loved the way she gave it up. She allowed me everything: spanking her, pulling her hair, throwing her down, fisting her, nipple play, anal intercourse, love bites, hard kisses, strap-on sex for hours and she loved my butch cock. She would suck it and love me for it. I was in a beautiful Dom role that I hadn’t been in for years. She was a beautiful submissive. I was so horny all the time for her. She loved sex and I loved sex with her. Then we’d lie down and she’d rest her head on my shoulder, playing with my hair. We’d exchange soft and sweet kisses. I’d touch her hands and tell her how beautiful her hands were, how beautiful her body was, that her body was a ‘gift’ and she should love her body.

She’d say, “Why do you love my body so much?  You really think it’s beautiful?”

“It’s a fast car.. It’s such a beautiful body, you just don’t see it.”

She tapped her stomach, “Even with this kangaroo pouch? Come on.”

“That’s a beautiful sweet belly,” and I’d kiss her.

She’d smile and we’d continue to lie in bed talking, sharing secrets. She had the softest skin. “Jo, I love you. I love you so much, baby. You’ve made me so happy.”

Through November and December she visited Saturday afternoons, stay twenty-four hours, and leave Sunday.  We’d share every other weekend together. It was a promising love and I was ready to give her what no other had woman ever seen in me. We had exciting sex and shared a deep warm chemistry. She assured me she loved me over and over again. She’d write loving e-mails, send romantic cards, and call nearly every morning and every night saying how much she cared and loved me. She got a Star Registry Certificate and named a star after us in the Constellation Drago. She planned on getting a tattoo with our initials, we talked of marriage, she wanted to marry and have a baby with me, she gave me a ring on Valentine’s Day, and her card read,

“You are my life, my love, and my friend, and that’s forever, baby.”

We fit in bed like puzzle pieces. Katherine was a dedicated and loyal lover. She was kind and consistent. She was the only woman who never tried to change me. She never nagged me. She’d found me ‘perfect.’ I was lost in her in so many of our lovemaking sessions.

“Jo, I want to have your baby,’ she said over the phone.

I said, “How are we going to do that?”

“With one of your first, closest male cousins.”

“You’d sleep with one of my cousins?” I was astounded. “You would do that? You’d get pregnant because I like kids?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“I’d do anything for you, for us. I love you that much. I want a part of your lifeline in me.”

Katherine spoke of love all the time. Maybe she needed to speak the words to remind herself of how love could be, maybe she needed to say them in order to have them returned, maybe she’d miss tender words because she was going through a divorce and Tom had treated her so cruelly in their marriage. I didn’t know what it was. I trusted Katherine and believed her.

When her floral bouquet arrived at Halloween, her card read,

“Jo, you love me so well.  Thank you for loving me.   If you could see my tomorrows, you would see yourself in every one of them.  You wreck me, your holiday, your Wifey, Katherine”


            One weekend in early November, Katherine arrived on a Friday evening with her children. She packed their bicycles into her SUV, along with a camera, firewood, a model car kit, and the game of Twister. It was a time to bond with Katherine’s children. The first thing I did was get out an old football because I didn’t want to corner the children into conversation, but I knew a game of catch was an ice-breaker, so that’s how we began.  We went out for pizza, rented a scary movie (where I was the most scared), we rode bicycles, pieced the model car together and decaled it, saw a Saturday matinée, made Smores – which I’ve never made before –  and played the game of Twister where I nearly wrenched my back, even falling backwards on purpose, just to get a laugh.

Patrick chased Romeo in circles around the couch, and the cat looked forlorn as if to say, ‘help.’ But he never scratched or hissed and even let Patrick pick him up. I think Romeo liked the attention. Neither of us had much company and that weekend our lives had been satiated with love and laughter.

I didn’t realize when the children left that I’d never see them again.

Katherine stayed during weekends in October and November and part of December, arranging schedules with her ex-husband to be, making sure her son, Patrick, 9 and Jessica, 12, would be okay until she returned on Sunday afternoon. Tom had the children on weekends, but it seemed every time Katherine wanted to leave on a Friday to visit me one day early, he’d always throw a wrench in the plans, having to work late or some other engagement would pop up out of the blue, and she’d call to say,

“Baby, I’m sorry. Tom is being a prick. But even though I can’t come tonight, I’m dropping off the dogs at the kennel tomorrow–early, and I should be to you no later than one o’clock.”

I felt like shuffling my feet when I’d say, “Ah, it’s okay.”

“Don’t be mad.  I love you. And baby, I can’t wait to see you. Jo, you are everything to me and I will do whatever it takes to see you.”

Sometimes I felt like a mistress, I really did. I’d never been to her house; I’d never seen the way she lived. I wanted to, but I never pushed the issue. Her house in Charlotte did look pretty in the pictures she’d sent. It looked like a big house, lots of land, pretty nicely furnished. It would have been easier for me to travel to her, but she never invited me. And since she was still technically married, soon to be divorced, I didn’t think it appropriate for me to stay there. I didn’t want to upset her divorce proceedings or get in the middle in any way.

When Thanksgiving rolled around, she’d gone with Tom and the children to New Jersey. I felt badly, but I never said anything. “Next year, baby, it’ll be different,’ she said.

“I know, sweetheart, its okay. Did you enjoy your holiday with your family?”

I always tried to be on her side. I just couldn’t find it in my heart to be unkind to her.


She told me in a crying jag one night that she was bulimic.

“That’s why my teeth are so bad, Jo.”

“You’re bulimic, Katherine? You throw up?”

“Yes. But I’ve never thrown up at your house.”

“Is that why you don’t eat, or you eat very little with me?”

“Jo, if I feel like I’m eating junk, like fast-food, I purge it.”

“Wow.  I can’t believe it.”

“Look, I’m sorry I told you, “she said indignantly.

“I mean, you’ve been doing this since …how long? Have you gotten any help?”

“See, this is what I get.  I’m sorry I ever told you. You don’t know a thing about bulimia.  You don’t know a thing about it!”

“Kath, I—“

“I’ll call you tomorrow. And don’t write me an e-mail telling me how you’ve got to think this over.  I don’t want to hear it. I am the way I am. You don’t have to like it.  But it’s my life. I thought I could tell you, talk with you, but I see I can’t.”

I was just listening; I didn’t know what to say. I mean she had an eating disorder and for three months I didn’t know. I didn’t know anyone who was bulimic, until Katherine.

“Kath,” I said, gently, “I would have found out if you didn’t tell me. I would have noticed.”

“No, you wouldn’t have,” she snapped, “Tom lived with me for 16 years and he never knew.”


The first Saturday in December I went to Flowerama and bought a dozen red roses then headed to a local jewelry store and decided to buy Katherine a ring. It was a beautiful ring in silver with a misty topaz stone cut on eight sides and beveled high so that when you viewed the ring, it shined green, magenta and turquoise. I wasn’t sure of Katherine’s taste in jewelry but I had chosen this type of ring because it was how I felt my love should be: bright and bold, out in the open, willing to change colors, and one of a kind. I would present the ring today because she was spending Christmas with her family and I probably wouldn’t see her until New Years.

When I returned home I was beside myself with excitement and before Katherine arrived I called Laine.

“Laine, I’ve got something to tell you!”

“Well, if it’s about Katherine, I don’t know about her, Jo.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I don’t know…but I just get the feeling she wears a mask.”

“What do you mean?  Laine?”

“Seriously, Jo. I don’t even know why I’m saying that, but I just get that feeling.

“I’m not calling to complain, Laine. I love this girl.”

Her voice was calm. “I’m only telling you this because I don’t want to see you get hurt. Jo, you’ve been down this road before. Remember Sharon? You have a house that you bought for Sharon and she’s not even around. You always give too much too soon.”

“Don’t worry about anything, please. After her divorce goes final –– Laine, look, this girl loves me. She does. I just bought her a ring.”

“You bought her a ring?”

“It’s beautiful. I’m giving it to her today. She’s coming this afternoon. I can’t        wait.”

“Oh, Jo, I hope you know what you’re doing.”

“Laine, I love her. You don’t know her. But she’s everything to me. And she         loves me. You know something?”


“She’s getting a tattoo with our initials.”


“Well, this is what she told me, she said:  “’Jo, you are my love, my life and my     friend and I’m going to get a circle of that on my back with those words.’”

“That’s gonna’ be some big tattoo.”

“Well, it’ll be something, right! But, Laine – can you believe it?  She loves me!”

“And I love you too, Jo. Just be careful. How much was the ring? Wait…don’t tell me.”


After I’d hung up with Laine, Katherine arrived wearing her hair up in a French twist with her sunglasses, tight jeans, boots and she smelled delicious with her signature scent, Burberry.

“Oh, baby! Come here,” she said, “God I’ve missed you so much. I want to make love right now. Please can we go upstairs?”

In bed I said, “Kath, I’ve got something for you. I know it’s a little early in our relationship, but I can’t help it. I know we won’t be together for the Christmas holiday and I want you to have this.”

The jewelry box was purple with a pink bow and bagged in black lace. I handed it to her, at first I thought about slipping the ring on her finger, but I wanted her to enjoy the presentation, I wanted to see her face when she opened it.

“What’s this? Baby…” she said coyly.

“Honey, I love you.”

As she untied the ribbon and opened the box, the ring sparkled as the afternoon sun shined through the bedroom window.

“You got me a ring?”

I took the ring and said, “What finger should we place this on?”

She had bought herself a ring after Tom left and she had worn it in place of her band. She took off her ring. “It goes here.” She put out her hand and I placed the ring on her left ring finger.

“Oh, Jo! I love it!”

“Do you?”

“Oh, I love it. I love you, oh, Jo, baby…”

She and I sat outside on my deck as the afternoon sun melted away in our eyes.     “Do you really like it?” I asked.

She sat and stared at the ring, flashing it all ways, bringing it back to her face and pushing out her hand. “Oh, it’s beautiful, Jo, really. It really is.”

“Kath, I didn’t know what you liked, but it’s—“

“It’s perfect, it’s perfect.”

“I know we won’t be together for Christmas, but I wanted to let you know that I’ll           be there, in spirit. Wear my ring, that’s a sign of my love.”

“I will, baby. Always.”

“I’ve got to get this Christmas tree up, want to help?”

“You better believe I do!”

We decorated the tree and it looked beautiful. Something about the way she decorated it made my heart lift. I hadn’t had any help decorating my tree since living with Linda. The tree went up in less than a half hour. She said,

“Now that it’s all up, I’ve got something for you! I’ll be right back.”

She ran out to her car and she came back with two boxes, both wrapped pretty and neat. One box was smaller and I thought, “God, how come femmes wrap gifts so good and I can’t?”

She placed the two boxes under the tree. I smiled, “Are those for me?”

“They are! Open them now!”

“Can’t I wait for Christmas? I won’t have anything to open Christmas morning if I open them now.”

“Oh no! You can’t. Please open them now. Please, please, please? Honey, this        isn’t just it, they’ll be more. But please open them now, please?”

I opened the small one first.

“Katherine, you got him a toy?  God, I can’t believe you remembered him. That’s so nice of you, really.”

We placed the toy in front of Romeo, spun it around and toyed with the ball and feather contraption, teasing him, taking it back and forth and moving it around in circles. He batted the feather a couple of times then went back to sleeping. “Oh, you old man, “ I said, “now if Angelo were here, my once great former mouser, he’d be all over this ball.” I picked up Romeo, kissed him and he licked me on my nose, “Okay, go lie down boy.”

“Kath, that was so nice of you, really. Thinking of Romeo.”

“I like Romeo, babe. He’s the coolest cat. He’s the only cat I’ve ever really liked. …Now open the big present.”

I was wondering what could be in such a big box. I hadn’t asked for anything. For me a gift is good enough if it’s got socks and underwear, maybe a car wash certificate, but she had gone overboard and felt I’d deserved it. The wrapping was perfect, but the gift was better, “Wow! You got me a CD player?!”

“It’s from the kids, now mind you.”

“Kath! You knew I needed a CD player! Honey!” I immediately put the speakers and wires together and programmed my favorite radio stations.

She commented, “You’re reading the manual?”

“I always read the manuals. Actually, this one is written pretty well.”

“Oh, God,” she said and started to laugh.

That night we danced in the kitchen while The Stylistics CD played, one that I hadn’t listened to in a while, I began to sing to her as I held her close,

“You are everything and everything is you, whoa-oh, you are everything and everything is you…you are everything and everything is you.’


            Katherine and I would go out to clubs and she’d order a “Jack, back.”  I’d ordered several of those for her one night, not knowing what I was ordering, but the bartenders knew. Jack Daniels and Coor’s Light. Her drinks came in at $10 bucks a pop, and between my Chardonnay at $6 bucks a glass and her drinking requests, we’d spent a small fortune many nights when she was in town.

When Katherine came on New Year’s Eve day it was a slow day in Raleigh, there was no traffic anywhere. I had gone shopping for some special groceries the day before.  I bought shrimp and scallops and good cheeses, dips, and a bottle of champagne. I was planning a nice meal with the uncorking of the champagne to toast at midnight. She had arrived early, before noon, and she had packed very little. She had the clothes she was wearing and in her overnight bag, her make-up and a lingerie.

I asked her if she’d like to go to lunch, get something to eat, but two places that I’d chosen were crowded and we wound up at a bar and grill called the Bull and Bear. We sat and talked at the bar and watched some football. It was the last day in 2006.

I don’t know why I took her there except that I could blame it on my own melancholy that day. Suddenly I’d become sad on the last day of the year—even with Katherine’s company, and I wound up in a dive bar with her, without even ordering a burger. So she began with the beer and chasers and I sipped a cheap glass of wine.

We then proceeded to drink some more. We went back to my place, made a little love, and I asked her if she wanted to go to Cinelli’s, a local restaurant, one that we’d both been to before. Before we left, I made the scallops and shrimp, and put out a cheese platter, but she didn’t want to eat. “Let’s eat later,” she said.  So, I refrigerated everything and we left for Cinelli’s.

It was raining and on the way into the restaurant Katherine tripped and fell on her leg. She didn’t get up readily. I was half-drunk but she was drunker than me. It was New Year’s Eve and we were celebrating. I watched her fall in the rain, wearing my borrowed shirt, I asked her, “Are you okay? Baby?!”

“Oh, I’m all right,” she said.

Inside Cinelli’s the music was playing, and there was a good singer doing his very best at Karaoke. Everyone there was dressed nice, except Katherine and me, with our rag-tag jeans. But she was pulling out the credit cards and I had some cash, ‘Fuck it’, I thought, it was New Year’s Eve. We were sending out 2006 with a bang. On the dance floor she started her hypnosis on me, gyrating into my groin with her ass. She and I were both deliberately out of control. We were fucking each other on the dance floor in front of a bunch of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant people and then started making out in front of them. We ordered a round for a couple of people we knew and I placed a party hat on Katherine and she placed an Hawaiian lei around my neck.

When we were leaving Katherine’s arm had caught the door and she tripped going out the door. The manager followed us, holding an umbrella, yelling through the rain, “Are you okay?!” Are you sure?!”  It was pouring. I told him, “Glen!  We’re fine!  I live just around the block!”

When we returned home I said, “Are you hungry?” and she said, “Yes, I’m starved.”  Of course we both were—we hadn’t really eaten anything all day.  I gave her a plate of Gemelli pasta with shrimp, scallops and mushrooms, and she took the plate upstairs to the bedroom. I stayed in the kitchen making my plate, finishing up a few things before joining her. But she had eaten fast and came running down the steps saying, “Can I have seconds?  Baby, I’m sorry I finished so fast!  It was good!” and off the last step into the living room she had fallen.

I looked at her lying on the floor. She had fallen three times in one night. She was holding the empty plate. I never thought she was fooling for a second. I knew immediately something was wrong. She said, “Jo, I can’t get up.  My leg really hurts.”

She laid there in her underwear and a top. I went from being half-drunk to sober in a matter of minutes and called EMS. I dressed her in a pair of green sweatpants and put her in a new air cast I had purchased for my own ornery ankle that was prone to sprains, just three weeks before.

The driver drove slowly and I followed behind in my car. We arrived at the emergency room and she went in right away, but everything after that, the X-rays, the diagnosis, the doctor coming, the wrapped leg, the paperwork, took long. We were told at 4:30 a.m. that she had severely damaged her leg but they couldn’t operate because of her insurance carrier being in Charlotte, so they bandaged her up, gave her a few pain pills and I drove her back to my home in Raleigh. She was given a prescription but it was New Years Day and it was hard to find a store open to fill it.

I didn’t know what to do. Katherine said, “Jo, I’m going to have to call my mother. I’m going to have to call Tom.”

Through the phone his voice was loud enough, “Were you drinking?” he said, “Were you?”

I left the room. I didn’t want to hear it. I knew she was drinking—we both were. I had not taken care of my lady. I did not watch out for her. I had let her down. I called her mother, entering the number for Katherine, never having spoken with her mother before. “Hello, Elizabeth?”

“Yes?  Hello.”

“Happy New Year. I’m calling for Katherine. This is Jo.”

“Happy New Year,” she said.

“Hold on, Katherine needs to speak with you.”

“Mommy?” Katherine started crying.

I left the room again.  I went downstairs looking at the step where Katherine fell.  Romeo was sitting and staring into his food bowl, it was dinnertime for him. I fed him, washed a few dishes, took out the garbage and washed my hands and face. When I went back upstairs to my bedroom where Katherine was now laying, she said,

“Mommy’s coming. Can you please call her back and talk about some things?”


            At Terminal A in RDU Airport, bag handlers were busy with the last-minute rush of holiday travelers. I pulled my car close to the curb where she was standing; it didn’t seem to faze her; I knew it was her standing there lanky and lean, dragging long on her cigarette outside in the wind, as the terminal police stood by, eyeing me for any violation, waiting for my departure.

“Hi, I’m Jo.” I greeted her as happily as I could, hurrying to load her bag into the trunk.

Her first words, “Mind if I smoke in your car?” took me back.

“No, not at all,” I said, politely. “How was your flight?”

“Expensive.” She stretched out a hand and awkwardly shook mine while my left hand took the wheel, “Nice to meet you, I’m Katherine’s mother Elizabeth.”


            On the evening of January 3rd, I called Laine. My Christmas tree lights were shining and I had heated up some left over pasta and shrimp and scallops from the night before.

“Laine, it’s me, Jo.”

“Jo! Happy New Year!”

“Happy New Year, but it ain’t so happy, Laine.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Well,” I began slowly, nearly choking on the words, “on New Years Eve Katherine broke her ankle, kneecap, fibula, and tibia. And today Katherine’s mother flew from New Jersey into Raleigh..”

“Are you kidding me? How?”

“She fell in my house, she fell down the last step, Laine, it’s unbelievable.”

“Is she going to sue?”



“Are you crazy? Have you completely lost your mind?”

“Jo, hey, you never know.”

“Look, I didn’t get much sleep last night, I’m a little aggravated. We were at the emergency room till four in the morning. Last night, New Years Eve, we were both out of control, but she was worse than me and she broke her friggin’ leg because she was so damn drunk! …Laine, do you know what a ‘jack-back’ is’?”

“Yeah, it’s a chaser of Jack Daniels with a beer.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Jo, this is not your fault.”

“In a way it is,” I said.


            Katherine left the morning of January 3rd.  I gave her a comforter, two pillows and a pair of green sweat pants. I kissed her goodbye. I laid the comforter underneath her on the backseat and propped up the two pillows. Her mother sat in the driver’s seat adjusting the mirrors for the ride back.

“Are you comfortable?” I asked Katherine, “are you sure?” “Yes,” she said. “Baby, I love you. I love you so much.” And she’d said that right in front of her mother. I said,

“I love you. I will call you. Okay?  I’ll call you tonight.” I tapped the door and said to Elizabeth, “Drive safe.”

I said goodbye to her on Mourning Dove Road.  She waved goodbye in the silver-gray, Buick Rendezvous that came to greet me every other Saturday.

To be continued

© Terry Rachel 2011

Just Fetching

11 Sep

 “But that’s the part I do understand, Swillie,” he stuttered, “It is, ‘Swillie’?”

She obliged him ‘yes’ with a quick back and forth head shake.  He smiled.  “It’s a different name.”

“Yes, like silly! Don’t ask, don’t ask. My mother must have been drunk when she named me. Do you know – this is a true story, I swear! When they put a wristband on a hospital patient, one woman – this is true – this woman, after having her baby, she’s looking at her wristband, right, and she says to her husband, ‘Lookey here, Dave, (let’s say his name is ‘Dave’ – I don’t know – but let’s just say), anyway, she says, ‘Dave’ isn’t that so nice. The hospital people named our daughter ‘Fem’ale’’. Now isn’t that a hoot! Some people are idiots!”

“For ‘female’? That’s a riot. True story?”

Swillie slaps her chest, crossing her heart, “I swear to God. You can’t make up this shit. I’m kinda’ glad my name – at least – sounds like ‘Tilley’ or ‘Sally’ even!”


“I’m a regular riot, stick around.”

Anyway, Swillie.  No, I don’t know you, it’s true, and it’s no problem to me, that you’ve divulged these things.  It’s actually ironic that you can speak up, you know, be so matter-of-fact, about a topic that is, well, taboo.”

“‛Taboo’!” she remarked quickly. “Oh!  I remember that as a fragrance!  Yes, yes! My mother would buy Tabu at Jaller’s Pharmacy!  We’d stop in for Easter or whatever and she’d buy Tabu and old man Jaller would wrap it up, pulling out some generic wrapping paper from under the counter!  He’d take forever too.  He was, like 100 years old and he walked liked this,” she stood, rounding her shoulders, the pretense of a lame foot dragging along the floor. He smiled at her; her mimicry wasn’t lost on him. “Parkinson’s?” he remarked.

“You got it! Ding, ding, ding! Winner here!”  Swillie was deliriously happy. She felt understood.

“It’s taboo,” he continued.  “It’s a topic that’s got taboo written all over it.  For years it’s been a dark chasm! And it was not discussed in social circles and it will probably be taboo for quite a while.”  He stopped and looked at her for a moment as he felt her steady gaze upon him.

Was he flirting? Or was he just being friendly? She couldn’t tell. To ponder this, Swillie leaned back in her chair, an impractical wrought-iron type sitting on too shiny a linoleum floor, and began to laugh aloud over the thought that she actually told her fantasy to him about being raped by a tall, dark, handsome stranger.  She continued laughing, and in her enthusiasm, the chair went smack! And she grabbed the table to right herself before nearly falling on the floor. Suddenly she was looking in his direction. “Wow! Close call! Hey, do you know all this is natural?” She laughed. “I’m not on any pills!”

“Too much caffeine, then.” he told her.

Something fierce was coming from deep inside her. It was coming. It was coming on very quickly. With a gurgle and growl she jerked in her chair again and this time, she threw her full weight forward into the table.  “‘WaaaarraaarrrghOh, my God! I don’t normally belch in public! Oh! I’m so embarrassed!”

The waiter, passing Swillie’s table said good-naturedly, “Oh my!”

Swillie was flabbergasted.  “Oh my goodness!” she said, “Excuse me!”

“Swillie! Please be careful!” said the waiter. “We want you to return and not fall on the floor. Stay in the chair!”

“Oh, Stankos!  I’m okay!  Thank you!”

“Are you all right, sir?  Anything I can get for you?” Stankos said to the stranger.

“No.  No.  I’m fine,” he said to the waiter, and to Swillie he said, “It’s fine, really,” and started to laugh – but not at her, and ever so slightly.  “A walk might do us good.”

Swillie sat up alert, positioning her napkin, folding its end, demurely touching the corners of her mouth.  She shifted her eyes about the room.  “You know, I love this place,” she told him.  “The waiters make me feel so comfortable and all.  And, not only that,” she whispered, as one of the waiters filled their water glasses.  “They’re sort of a fantasy.”

“What do you mean?”

“Ya know,” said Swillie. To drive home her point she pushed out her left hand to make an “O” with her index and thumb fingers, and with her right hand she pushed her index finger into the O several times.

“Hmmn, both of them?”  He laughed under his breath.

“It would be heaven.”

He said, “And over and over again, eh?”

She flashed her eyes at him over the rip of her coffee cup, “Is there any other way?”

They both sat offering polite smiles to the passing waiters, and then smiled politely at one another as couples do when love is young and fresh, when both parties offer pleasantries and try hard to be on their best behavior.  And it occurred to Swillie that this first conversation was somehow blossoming into something more.

“You know that burp was awful, but you’re lucky I didn’t throw up on you!  Oh God, that would be awful. One time, with hot dogs – I had one too many at a friend’s barbecue, I don’t know how it was in two large pieces.  But, let me tell you, I ran to the ladies room, and forced myself to throw up.  Felt it coming up and boom!  A piece of the hot dog hit the toilet seat and came back hitting me in the face!  A full projectile!”

“Oh, my God!” said the stranger, now standing, his eyes fixed on the TV in the corner behind Swillie. “Turn that up!” he said to the waiter, “Turn that up!” This got the attention of everyone in the restaurant, suddenly Blackberry’s were pinging alerts, and phone calls were buzzing, Swillie turned in her chair – everyone in the restaurant had stopped eating, a waiter, trying to fit between two tables, dropped two breakfast plates, several different languages were being spoken at once – there was a defining freakiness and then the umbrella of fear.

“Oh, my God? Is this real?” Swillie screamed. “Stankos turn on a different channel! Turn on a different channel!” It was the same from one news channel to the next. “That’s right down the block!”

Swillie ran to the window and saw what she could not believe, people running down the street, newspapers being used as shields from the white ash plume making its way up Broadway.

“My dog!” said the stranger, “I’ve got to get to my dog!”

As the white ash was making its way closer and closer to the restaurant, Swillie said to him as the man was making his way out the door and into the chaos, “I don’t even know your name!”

“I’m sorry! I’ve got to get back to my dog! I’ve got to get into my apartment! It’s right on Pine Street!”

People were running in the street, business people, people in shorts, people in suits, people in hats, in sneakers, in sandals, in sunglasses. Cabs were rushing up and the sirens of fire trucks and police were rushing down. “What’s your name?!” yelled Swillie.

And with a split of time before heading out, he yelled back, “Miles! My name is Miles!”

And he was gone.

Stankos yelled to his brother, “Domitri! Shut off all power! Put on security mode! Now! Hurry!” Stankos yelled to the patrons, “You can stay here or go! I’m giving you two minutes to either stay or leave the building!” Some people hurried out – home was where to be, with loved ones, but some people stayed behind, choosing to watch the chaos from behind security bars instead.

Swillie looked to the tray where Stankos had left her check and unwrapped the token candy. She rolled the dark chocolate and mint, sucking in the bitter sweetness to her mouth, sitting in silence, preparing herself.

The End

© Terry Rachel, 2011